Once upon a time, there was a boy named Jack who tricked the devil into climbing a tree. When Jack carved a cross into the trunk of the tree, the devil could not get down. So Jack made a deal. He would let the devil down if the devil promised not to let Jack into hell when he died.
So Jack continued to live his life as he always had, and as all things do, Jack died. He had not been a good man, not even remotely, so his soul went straight down to hell. The devil kept his end of the deal and would not let Jack in. The gates of heaven did not open for him either, so Jack was doomed to wander the earth carrying his soul in a hollowed out turnip.
His soul inside the turnip made a nice light by which to travel his dark path, and soon he noticed that many people used turnips as lanterns and that they carved strange and scary faces upon the turnips at a certain time of the year. He learned also that he had been seen wandering in the dark nights and was called Jack O'Lantern. On the night when the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead was at its thinnest, the people imitated Jack's turnip lantern, hoping that it would keep other spirits at bay.
On one of those nights, as the people reveled, Jack was confronted by a screaming banshee. She was very upset with him, and she tried to take the turnip from him.
"Pray tell me what the matter is, sweet banshee," Jack said to her as he looked for some place to hide. "Do I not deserve to know why you wish to steal my very soul?"
The pale banshee considered this a moment. "Nay, Jack O'Lantern. Ye need know nothing. Ye knew nothing before," she said.
"I have wandered many years now. Knowing is not something a wandering spirit needs to do."
The banshee hissed at him and resumed trying to snatch the turnip from his hands.
"Tell me your name at least, or I shall have to call you nothing but screaming bitch."
"My name is Blinne, and if ye dare to call me anything at all, I'll suck the eyes right out o' yer head."
Jack spotted a well up on the crest of a hill and trotted to it with Blinne close at his heels, still snatching at the turnip. He leaped over the well. Blinne stopped and blinked at him. He held the turnip out over the mouth of the well. "Now Blinne, kindly tell why you want this or I'll drop it down this well so that neither of us will have it," he said.
The banshee wailed. Jack couldn't help but cringe. Over her shoulder, he could see the lights from the windows and the shadowed faces of the wary villagers.
"Come now, sweet banshee Blinne," Jack said. He tossed the turnip into the air and caught it at the very last moment before it plunged into the unreachable darkness below. "Whoa, there. That was close."
"The last of yer descendants has passed, Jack O'Lantern," Blinne said. Her desperation was clear in her voice as it verged on its warbling death cry. "I called for her, and when she came to me, she asked me to bring her the soul of the rotten bastard who cursed her family."
"Curse?" This genuinely perplexed Jack. He had heard of no such curse upon those who bore his name, and yet it seemed just that such a curse should be placed upon them.
"Yes, curse. Each of them has suffered the same fate ye brought upon yerself no matter how good or how bad they may've been in life. They wander not so aimlessly but searching for the bringer of the curse so that they might break it and go to whichever of heaven or hell has been set for them."
Jack contemplated this for a very long time, and after a few seconds, he said, "If you will do one thing for me, I will give you the turnip," he said. He had no intention of giving up the turnip, but if he could trick the devil, he could trick a banshee.
Blinne cocked one eyebrow. She didn't believe that he felt any sympathy at all for his descendants. She would have expected him to mock them for not being clever enough to get out of the curse. "What is it ye want, Jack O'Lantern?" she asked.
"You must agree first."
"I'll agree to nothing until ye tell me what it is."
"I would hate to tell you and then have you not agree to my terms. It is a simple thing. I promise you it will not hurt a bit. You want the turnip, do you not?"
"Then you must agree."
"Aye, I must."
"So you agree?"
Blinne sighed. "Aye."
Jack smiled. He walked around the side of the well to Blinne and took her pale, slender hand in his. "It has been a long time since I've known a woman," he said. His voice was as sweet as honey and as soft as rose petals. "And you are very beautiful. We did not come to meet this way for no reason."
He laughed and put his arm around her waist, pulling her close to him. She opened her mouth to wail, and he kissed her. He took her down to the ground and removed her dress. He kissed her breasts and ran his fingers through the soft curly hairs between her legs. Soon his kisses and caresses had her panting for more, but he stopped. Dawn was drawing near. "Meet me back here at dark, and I will have you," he whispered.
Seduced by his charm and his touch, Blinne agreed and spent the daylight hours aching to be with Jack.
The next night, there was more of the same. He kissed her and stroked her until she trembled with pleasure, and as the sky began to grow light, he promised he would have her the next night. For seven nights, he pleasured her, always promising he would have her the next night and always leaving her at sunrise, wanting him so badly that she could only lay in that spot and pleasure herself until he came to her.
On that seventh night, Jack went to the well and found Blinne lying on the ground naked, writhing under her own touch, and he was only too happy to watch for a while. When she saw him watching, she said, "Now, Jack. Take me now. I'll not wait another night for it."
And so Jack lay with the banshee Blinne, knowing that she had completely forgotten his promise to give her the turnip if she slept him with. He left her there by the well and continued his wandering.
Summer came in a flash of color and a rush of heat that Jack had not seen in many years, and he spent his evenings lounging in the cool gardens brought to life by the skilled hands of villagers and the kindness of the weather that year. Then one night in the month of July as he was lolling about in a patch of fresh cucumbers that were just ready to be picked, he heard the shrill voice of a banshee calling out his name. He recognized Blinne's cry right away and looked for a place to hide. None was to be found and he was soon face to face with an oddly distended Blinne. He looked at her swollen belly with wonder. "Dearest, you've ... grown a tad," he said lightly.
"This foul thing in my belly is yer spawn, worthless trickster, and it's to be born tonight," Blinne said. The spite in her tone was unmistakable. "I shall expel it into yer hands and be done with both ye and it."
"But I ... I ... "
Blinne howled in pain as the child within her let it be known that he was ready to come into the world. She clutched Jack's shirt in her fists. "I pray it's a mite smarter than its sire, that I do," she snarled. "Else I might slit its throat even on the cord."
"You'll do no such thing, you spiteful whore!" Jack cried. He was surprised to hear his own concern. He may not have been a good father to the children his wife bore him in his life, but he had loved them.
"Then take yer bastard from me and never cross my path again!"
Blinne lay down on the ground, lifting her dress up over her stomach. She spread her legs open and began to push. Jack knelt between her legs and took off his shirt so that he might catch his babe with it when Blinne's pushing and grunting yielded a new life. The hours wore on until the sun was just beginning to touch the horizon, and finally, a tiny being jumped feet first from Blinne's womb. It landed squarely in Jack's arms, urinated all over him and began to wail. Blinne pushed herself up on her elbows to look at the child, and for just a moment, she felt a touch of motherly love for the howling thing in Jack's arms. But then she recalled how Jack had tricked her. She drew a knife, cut the umbilical cord and got to her feet.
"A pox on both ye rotten bastards!" she spat, and then she was gone.
Jack looked down at the child he held. It was a boy, and his skin was a pale pearlescent green. His eyes, when he finally stopped crying and opened them, shifted through colors so quickly that Jack couldn't tell which they started on and which they stopped on. He had a patch of thick black hair upon his head and was as lovely a newborn as Jack had ever seen. The baby smiled up at his father, reached his arms up and cried, "Papa!"
Jack laughed, delighted. "That screaming bitch doesn't know what she's missing," he said to his new son. "I shall name you after me, then. Jack. Come, little Jack. The sun is almost up."
Big Jack and little Jack slept away the day hidden in the garden, and when big Jack awoke, he had an idea. Little Jack was already crawling his way around the garden, playing with the bugs and the worms and gnawing on the leaves to see what they were.
"Jack, come to your papa," big Jack said. "There's something I need you to do for me."
"But Papa, the worms want to play," little Jack said.
"The worms will wait. Come here, son."
But little Jack could tell that his father's intentions were not quite good, and he crawled into the cucumber patch. "Play hide and seek with me, Papa!" he called out.
"Oh, all right." Big Jack wandered the garden, searching for his son. He was becoming terribly frustrated at not being able to find the boy when he entered the cucumber patch and saw little Jack sitting in the middle of the path with a cucumber in his left hand and a big grin on his face. "Jack, you naughty boy. You had me worried there for a second."
"Trick!" little Jack said, laughing.
"Yes, indeed, a trick. Now, your game is done. Come."
Little Jack crawled over to his father who bent down beside him and showed him the hollowed out turnip he carried.
"Do you see this, son?" Jack asked.
The boy nodded, his eyes shifting from white to green to blue and back to white. His father's tone was very serious. The turnip was terribly important, and little Jack listened closely.
"When I was a boy, not as young as you, I tricked the devil and got myself banned from hell and heaven so that when my time had passed, I was doomed to wander this land carrying my soul in this turnip."
"It's awfully small for a soul."
"Yes. It's cramped and damned uncomfortable. I would love to be able to take my soul out of this turnip and stretch it. If you could take my place in the turnip just for a little while, I could do that. Come on, son, into the turnip with you."
"No. I don't think so."
"It looks dark and scary inside the turnip."
"It isn't, I promise. Do as Papa says."
"But I'm afraid, Papa."
"Now, Jack. It's not so bad. Be a brave little man."
"I'd feel better if you got into this cucumber and made a light for me to have with me so I could see where I was. Just in case it is dark and scary." Little Jack held up the cucumber he had in his hand. "See, I carved it out and made a hole so the light will shine through and show me where I am."
Touched by his son's ingenuity and not wanting the boy to be afraid, Jack agreed, but no sooner had he gone inside the cucumber light than he realized he had been tricked by his own child. Holding his hand over the hole in the end of the cucumber, little Jack ran down to the nearest cemetery and buried the cucumber deep in the earth, trapping his father inside the vegetable in the hallowed ground.
Little Jack ran back to the garden and grabbed the turnip, which still held his father's soul. He cut open the turnip and watched the soul dash to the cemetery where it tried to dig up the cucumber. To this day, a small light can be seen on some nights in that graveyard, hovering above a certain spot on the ground. Later that evening, little Jack had a turnip stew for supper.